I-90 Cup Staying In Albany
The Albany Conquest will keep the I-90 Cup, which is given to the winner of the three contests between the two teams, at the state capital for the second year in a row as they trounced intra-state rival Rochester Brigade 64-40 at the Pepsi Arena. The fifth win in a row sees the Conquest at 7-1 while the Brigade dropped to 1-8.
Unlike the last meeting between the teams on May 16, which was a see saw battle until the final quarter, Saturday night’s contest was never close. While Rochester scored first and rather quickly, the Conquest racked up 29 unanswered points during the first and second quarters. The 29 points were thanks in part to a defensive stand, a safety, and a field goal block. The Brigade eventually closed the gap to 34-20 before halftime, but they didn’t score until the fourth quarter when LeMonte Coleman scored on an 11-yard run.
Two defensive plays by the Conquest in the second half signified their dominance throughout the night. In the middle of the third quarter, Albany made a defensive stand deep in their territory. On Rochester’s first possession of the second half, the Brigade went for it on fourth and goal from the Conquest six. But Conquest WR/DB Jamie Ware deflected Jason Visconti’s pass attempt to Andra Johnson and the ball was turned over on downs. Ware’s work was rewarded on the Conquest’s first offensive play when QB Ryan Vena looked for Ware on a deep pattern. Though Vena under threw Ware, it was the receiver’s concentration on the ball that gave the Conquest a big touchdown.
Another big defensive play was Elijah Beamon’s interception, which he returned 50 yards the other way for a touchdown that pretty much sealed the game for the Conquest. It was Beamon’s second interception return for a score this season.
As in their previous meetings, both teams exchanged penalties early and often. In fact, the opening possession started with a delay of game penalty on Rochester. After only nine penalties combined in the first half, the teams wound up with fourteen combined penalties in the second half, 23 in all. The Conquest committed fifteen for 115 yards. Although the defense allowed only 108 net yards all game, there were some penalties that could have been avoided, including three illegal defense penalties and four offside penalties. Even Brigade coach Mark Saunders got into the penalty column with an un-sportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the first Albany possession of the second half when he went on a tirade about the Conquest line holding the Brigade.
One area of concern for head coach Pete Costanza has to be special teams, which gave up almost as many points as the defense. After not giving up any kickoff returns for touchdowns all season, the Conquest has allowed four in consecutive weeks.
The Conquest will face the Greensboro Prowlers in their next contest; between kickoff and missed field goal returns, the Prowlers have returned five for touchdowns this year, three of them by WR/DB Bobby Sippio. They also need work on onside kicks; the Conquest gave up two onside kicks at the end of the game, one that lead to a touchdown. Costanza noted his concern in Sunday’s edition of the Albany Times Union when he said “We can play well on defense, but we can’t give up points on special teams.”
Other than the concerns on special teams, the Conquest are running on all cylinders going into Greensboro (4-5) on Saturday night.
Game MVP: Albany QB Ryan Vena 17 completions on 21 attempts, 251 yards, 6 TD; 6 rushes, 26 yards.
Ironman MVP: Albany WR/DB Jamie Ware, 2 receptions, 56 yards, 1 TD; 1 tackle, 1 pass defended.
Defensive MVP: Albany DS Elijah Beamon; 6 tackles, 1 assist, 1 INT 50 yards, 1 TD.
Ryan McCarthy has been an on-and-off Internet columnist and blogger since 1997. He has been an avid follower of Arena Football since 1990 when the Albany Firebirds were established. Ryan currently attends Regent University, where he is pursuing his Bachelors degree in Communications with a Journalism concentration. He anticipates graduating toward the end of 2019. You can follow Ryan on Twitter at @rwhoisryanmcc